R U OK? Day – You don’t need to be an expert to ask the question

R U OK? Day is a national day of action that takes place on 8 September, serving as a reminder for Australians to check in on each other’s wellbeing and ask, “Are you ok?”

This year’s R U OK? Day also reminds us that you don’t need special expertise or qualifications to start a meaningful conversation with someone or to spot the signs that they may be struggling.

Research conducted by R U OK? indicates that 4 out of 10 Australians assume that asking “are you ok?” is best asked by an expert. But as the organisation points out, without diminishing the work played by health professionals, there are benefits to empowering ordinary Australians to listen and give each other some of their time: “Listening and giving someone your time might be just what they need to help them through.”

1 in 2 Australians have experienced a mental health condition in their lifetime. Arguably everyone has been affected by mental illness in some way, whether they experience it themselves or provided support to family, friends, co-workers or acquaintances somewhere along the way.

Research by R U OK? suggests that the simple yet powerful act of having a meaningful conversation into another person’s wellbeing tends to be received well: 85% of respondents to a survey  said that when someone engaged them in such a conversation, it felt authentic and genuine.

In other words, you can make a difference in a person’s life by listening. You can then follow this up by guiding them towards seeking professional guidance.

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when starting a conversation:  

Firstly, you might notice that someone is in distress. Perhaps you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour. It can often be quite subtle yet enough for you to suspect that they are feeling under pressure or upset. Remember, it is always worth erring on the side of approaching someone and being incorrect, rather than letting someone suffer in silence.

Next, if you have realised that someone could benefit from having a conversation, ask yourself some questions first. Check whether you are in an appropriate headspace to have this conversation, and, if so, where would be an ideal, convenient and private location to have it.

There are many ways to approach the actual conversation, so prioritise what you think will make both you and the other person most comfortable. You could start by flagging that you think you’ve noticed a change and letting them know that you’re there to listen if they feel like talking.

Then, try to encourage an action that could help, such as seeking professional assistance.

It also helps to check in with them after the conversation to see how they are going.

One small conversation can change a life. R U OK? Day is only one day, but it reminds us that we can ask this question and look out for those around us on any day.

GRC Solutions offers a fully customisable course on Mental Health Awareness to help individuals understand and identify common mental health issues, to provide support to co-workers who may be experiencing mental health issues and to play their part in breaking down stigmas surrounding mental health.

Source: R U OK?